Routing M20 away from North Cork would be a 'major blow' to the region
Cllr insists all politicians must also prioritise Mallow relief road
Routing the proposed M20 - Cork to Limerick - motorway away from North Cork would be hugely detrimental for the region and would effectively stall the development of an economic corridor stretching from Cork along the western seaboard as far as Sligo.
That's the view of Mallow-based Labour county councillor James Kennedy, who has called on Transport Minister Shane Ross to uphold the "unambiguous" statement made by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in 2017 that the motorway would pass through North Cork.
Confusion surrounds the route for the M20 after it emerged that Limerick City and County Council, the lead authority for the project, had made a submission to the Southern Regional Assembly to route the motorway through Cahir. Speaking to The Corkman this week, Cllr Kennedy weighed in on the debate, saying such a move would come as a "major blow" to North Cork and the South and Mid-West regions, including the crucially important tourism sectors in West Cork and Kerry.
"It would also stall the development of a western economic corridor from Cork to Limerick, and on to Galway and Sligo. Such a corridor would act as a counter balance to the dominance of the Greater Dublin region and be in accord with government policy on regional development," said Cllr Kennedy.
He said re-routing the motorway would also ignore the various independent economic reports commissioned over the years, "all of which clearly identified the most efficient and the most economic route for the M20, and its associated relief road around Mallow".
"These studies were carried out at the behest of the previous Taoiseach Enda Kenny, and subsequently presented to the then Minister for Transport Pascal Donoghue. Are all these studies now to be completely disregarded by this government?" "The present Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, was unambiguous in late 2017, stating in the Dáil that the M20 route would be from Cork to Limerick through Mallow, Charleville and Buttevant. It is imperative that the present Transport Minister Shane Ross and Transport Infrastructure Ireland are of the same mind, thus ensuring that the thousands of commuters and general public in this region, are reassured this agreed route will not change," said Cllr Kennedy.
He went on to say it would appear that as a result of cost overruns at the Children's Hospital and the rural broadband project, the government had "decided to postpone major infrastructural investment outside of the Greater Dublin region", such as the Mallow relief road.
"Thus, towns like Mallow, Charleville and Buttevant, have again been deemed to be of lesser importance than, in this government's view, our so-called Eastern region betters. Exceptions to this are Macroom and Westport, where bypasses of towns have leap-frogged over more deserving towns, such as Mallow. What these towns have in common is that they have senior ministers sitting at the cabinet table, where major policy decisions are taken," fumed Cllr Kennedy.
He said that, for him, "the most galling aspect of the whole saga" was that, when Labour was last in power, Deputy Sean Sherlock working with local interest bodies had secured from the then public expenditure minister Brendan Howlin funding for the Mallow relief road but little progress had been made on the project over the intervening years.
Cllr Kennedy said it was vitally important, given that a general election is looming large on the horizon, that all political parties prioritise the long awaited construction of a Mallow bypass. "In particular, Fine Gael candidates should be admonished for not doing enough to prioritise the bypass during their party's time in government. It is time that towns like Mallow, Buttevant and Charleville, be given priority funding for badly needed investment," said Cllr Kennedy.